The duo ducked as a wide swing from the troll’s club threatened both of them. Val tumbled into a roll with a preternatural grace of his own and came up inside the troll’s guard. Light streamed away from his greatsword as he did so, causing it to shrink down to something more like a long dagger or a short sword.
Val slashed at the troll’s belly, but found his blade turned away by the dark weave of the troll’s grimy clothing. Frustrated, Val spun and drove the dagger deep into the unprotected flesh of the troll’s club-wielding arm.
The troll howled as the blade bit deep. The club tumbled from its fingers.
Val tried to slip outside the troll’s range. He failed. The troll caught him with a vicious backhand blow that sent him slamming into bridge support. For a small footbridge, it was solidly built. Val slumped to the ground, not unconscious but definitely dazed.
“Val!” Sand reached into his subconscious and seized a fragment of recent dream. He flung out his hand and a wall of flickering numbers—a relic from that strange digital dreamland to which he had followed the mask—rose up around the troll, shielding Sand and Val from further attacks by the brute.
The troll bellowed and battered the wall. The numbered flickered and fritzed—but held. For the moment.
“Val? Val.” Sand knelt down. “Hey, come on. Snap out of it.”
Val’s eyes rolled a bit before focusing on Sand. He blinked rapidly.
“Help me up.” Val extended his hand for help, but missed Sand by a good two feet.
Sand grabbed his arm and helped haul him to his feet. Val shook his head again and his eyes began to clear.
“That right,” Sand encouraged. “Shake it off.”
Val reached into the light and again pulled forth a sword.
“That wall isn’t going to hold him long.” Sand warned. “So, I’m sorry, but—”
Sand set his fingers against Val’s temple and pulled.
“What—” Val’s eyes went hazy.
“Just be ready,” Sand began, moving his free hand in a series of quick, sharp gestures, “when I—”
The troll roared and the wall of numbers faded, flickered, and died. Pieces of dream, like great chunks of black and green stone, exploded outward as the troll smashed his way through. They faded even as they flew, vanishing before their impact could cause undue damage.
The troll was another matter. Arms drawn back and eyes filled with rage, it flung itself at Sand and Val, half a ton of stone-hard hate.
To Be Continued…
Next Time, on Digital Dreaming: “Paying the Troll”
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